8 01, 2013

Boundaries again

January 8th, 2013|boundaries, triggering|3 Comments

Two days ago I went to a small house party with some new age performance acquaintances I have. These were people I’ve met a few times before at parties and done fun things with but didn’t know well.  Hadn’t seen them in close to a year; I’d been to India and had all sorts of different experiences in that time. It was one of those events where there was an unspoken attitude of “let go of fear, just drop all boundaries and surrender to love” with an emphasis on no boundaries and no resistance.

Immediately upon entering, one guy led an exercise where we wrote a couple words about the beginning of a relationship and again about the ending of a relationship. Everyone then paired with one or two people and used those words to speak about both of those experiences, one time “from the mind” with one time “from the heart”, with the not so subtle connotation that being from the heart was better. I was paired with a guy I didn’t know and the exercise leader.

As I spoke, I realised I was both feeling angry and defensive as well as internally “splitting” from myself, Why? In retrospect, this is forced intimacy. There was a sizeable amount of peer pressure to behave as if you have built trust, even if you haven’t.  Instead of taking time to develop a space where it’s truly OK to show vulnerability,  the atmosphere starts with “you must open up”.

I’ve seen this in other exercises before, such as where you stare into another person’s eyes for a long time. In the abstract it can sound like a break in the isolation of the modern age, but if I’m aware of myself, I notice that forcing myself to do this feels bad. And that’s the key word – force.  I hate being forced; it feels violent.  I’m more in the “sensitive” category, so what works for me is taking care on who I open up to. This means discernment about who I am revealing to in words, who I show vulnerability to in my eyes, and who I let inside my personal space and allow more familiar touch to. To me, this is self-care and is an expression of self worth. A parent wouldn’t hand their child to just anyone – why would I hand my soul (or body, or uncertain parts of me) to others?  So this is a fundamental disagreement I have with some personal development workshops and styles.

Coming from the Heart?

I then spoke up about this publicly, and the exercise leader tried to use me of an example of resistance to “coming from the heart” by inaccurately rephrasing what I said.  To be honest, it strongly reminded me of the Patrick Swayze character in Donnie Darko – “choose love, not fear!”. Love that movie.  A nice way of trying to keep control.  I left feeling incredibly triggered.

As I am wont to do, it made me think more about boundaries. I wrote about this before, but I’ve lived more, and when I get this body reaction, including minor shakes and convulsions, I think more about what they are and how I didn’t respect myself. So I’ll now list different types of boundaries.


Boundary Types

Physical boundaries are the easiest to identify, because a camera can catch them clearly. It’s the acknowledgement and respect of each other’s space.

There’s no precisestop-1560699-639x852 measure of personal space, yet everyone understands it. Experiments of time-lapse photography of people arriving on a beach in a sunny day shows how a plot of sand chosen follows a general algorithm of desiring space and respecting that of others. The area called “personal space” decreased as the area got more crowded, but became even more important.

When personal space is respected, there’s a tiny negotiation when that invisible line is crossed. This can be via eye contact, a little physical hesitation, or asking if it’s OK. After trust has been developed there is an assumption that it is OK, but part of that trust is the understanding that at any time, the asking of physical space will be respected.

Intellectual boundaries are essentially about the space to have different thoughts. More than that, a good intellectual atmosphere is when different thoughts are appreciated. There’s an interest in what you really think.

Our education system, based on memorisation, is often subtly (or not so subtly) about imitating the teacher’s mindset. You know how essay grading can be – if you rephrase the teacher’s arguments in class, you’re at least going to get a decent mark. If you go out on your own path, especially if you’re thoughts are still developing, nothing is certain.

High powered workshops or big sales events can at times be a great observation about lack of intellectual boundaries. Brainwashing techniques are essentially meant to break through these, bringing a fleeting high of closeness from everyone seemingly being on the same page. It’s called group-think. But because it’s forced, there’s a counter reaction and it never lasts. People either leave the group in disillusionment or want more, trying to that next “hit” of a time when everyone seems together in union. Workshop junkies, anyone?

Emotional boundaries are harder to define, but just as important. This is the space to have your own distinct feelings and identity. Being able to respect this space in others takes maturity and listening skills. Most people simply aren’t aware of the full range of different emotions another can have, and so jump to “oh, I understand, you’re feeling ____ (projection) and here’s my advice”.

Reactivity is essentially an expression of not allowing another space. For instance, in my childhood my mother got incredibly upset whenever I would show anger. Love that British culture! To her the world was ending, and her body would tense and she would do whatever it took to “work it out”, which meant that I had to stop feeling it. There was no space for me to have my own feelings, and I ended up feeling worthless the moment I felt anger. It’s been a lifelong lesson for me to learn that this energy has value and is essentially self-protection and self care.

Internal boundaries are also essential. Can you let yourself have an emotion or thought and give it space? Can you let it be there without immediately trying to change it? That is in essence, the basis of meditation. It’s also a great way to practice listening to yourself so you can listen to others better.

Psychologically, one word used for good boundaries is differentiation. I’ve written on that topic before as well. In a Freudian sense, it’s when you fully and deeply know just how different other woman are from your mother, and how different other men are from your father. But mostly it’s about good internal and external boundaries.

Respect of boundaries is so essential because it essentially says “hey, I know you’re a person with the same rights as me”.  To me, there cannot be any real love between people without good boundaries, because you can only love someone for who they actually and truly are. The moment there’s any sort of pressure to conform or not be, think or feel something, then in that moment, there’s non-acceptance. Most boundary crossing is essentially a desire to love by making another (or one’s self) into something easier, in this moment, to love. You find someone else’s “negativity” hard to love, so you try to get in there to affect them in some way that’s easier for you to appreciate and trust, that triggers less reactions.  This inevitably turns into conflict and confusion, because it’s all about control, and the human psyche inevitably wants to be in a free state.

Do you know when you cross boundaries?  Most people don’t seem to.  We get into arguments easily when there’s a lack of respect for intellectual boundaries, such as dismissals.  Relationships end up with fused personas, leaving people wondering where it all went wrong.  And in the dating scene the physical boundaries can be an issue, commonly talked about regarding men not respecting women, but it also occurs from women to men too.  It happened that night to me!

Too often we want to jump steps because we want to feel good. It’s amazing how much “just choose LOVE!” philosophy is about non-acceptance. Jumping into “love”, meaning something other than who we are, can never be loving, because it’s not respectful to the present moment. That’s where appreciation comes from – just being fine with what’s going on now.

That wasn’t the end of the evening, but it’s all I want to write about.  It’s taken me a couple days to get centered again, and I’m not totally there yet. I’m still learning that my internal reactions that say “no!” in a strong way are really and truly valuable, no matter what the reactions of other people are. It’s all part of the journey of being true.


23 07, 2007

an allowing space

July 23rd, 2007|allowing, emotions, listening, love, tears, triggering|0 Comments

This one has more of a glimpse into my personal journey, dealing with a large triggering of pain inside me, and the compassion that came from it.

The last couple weeks have surprisingly full of triggers for me with an online group that I’ve been part of, a group related to the Michael teachings. Although it was somewhat painful and resulted in me distancing myself away from it, great lessons came up for me.

Essentially, in this group, which is spiritually oriented and focused on balance and behaving with compassion, a few people (some of whom were moderators) behaved very differently in private emails than they did in public. In one case, it was flaming; throwing insults, wishing pain and destruction, being quite nasty. This went to the level of being an online stalker over the past few months, and there were some phone calls and text messages as well, all nasty and wishing pain. This was primarily to Karen,
but to a lesser extent to me.

What triggered my own pain was that the online group (although I’ve met most of the people on it face to face), which styles itself as focused on community and support, was totally unsupportive of bringing this up publically. It was “a private matter”, and it didn’t matter if it got to abusive actions, it wasn’t their business. Even if the other person (who was part of the group) made nasty innuendo publically. The hypocrisy of this struck me – the philosophy of community and support seemed to be thrown by the wayside. The moderators even suggested the police, showing they understood the scope of the issue somewhat, but refused to do anything themselves. It came to a crux Monday. I’d posted publicly what was going on as factually as I could, without any blame that I could see, and was basically told “personal issues involving people we know are not something we want to see on here”. Nice support there! It brought up a lot of pain inside me – especially long term stuff related to support.

So that’s the background. However, this is about my personal journey, not any rant on the flaming the anonymity of the internet can bring. Such things abound in this extremely isolated society we’ve created. What resulted next is what’s important.



Karen called me to offer her support on it Monday, and was indeed incredibly supporting. What was unusual and special about the call was not anything she said. The entire call, lasting close to 90 minutes, did not have many words in it at all! She simply gave me space to be who I was, which included the pain that was occurring. There was absolutely no “problem” to fix, nothing to resolve, nothing to make go away. It was simply two people with much love for each other simply being present, and the fact that there was a large amount of pain was incidental.

So what happened? Of course, like anyone in pain, at first I wished other people would change so I wouldn’t have to be triggered like this. I’m human too! Though I knew it was a triggering, so I didn’t identify too much with these thoughts. After muddling along, gradually accepting that there was no escape from the inner landscape I was in, I started scribbling on a drawing pad in charcoal. No definite shapes; just dark, sharp movements, expressing the chaos inside myself right now. Balls of small abysses accumulated on the page, bringing form to my internal world at that moment. It didn’t last long, but was enough to bring more acceptance and flow to what was coming. Karen was silent all through this. This was not a silence based on zoning out; she was present with me, with her full attention at hand. There was nothing that needed to be said; her presence said it all.

Her words describing her state were “It was about holding a space open for you, and acknowledging the perfection of whatever it is you were experiencing. In that moment, it was perfect, and there was no need to exert influence to change. I knew you were capable of doing it yourself.”

Soon enough, I felt more open to myself, breathing more fully, and lied down on the couch. Tears came. Tears, tears, and more tears. There were no reasons for the tears at first, and I didn’t need any. Some times reasons are like a straightjacket, restraining the human dance of emotions. I simply allowed what needed to come out. The expansive presence that was created in that moment created a magical, permissive atmosphere. This was no exercise of catharsis as seen in workshops; it was simply a gentle allowing that fully reincorporated parts of me back into myself. Tears flowed for the better part of an hour. Karen felt the pain, but didn’t see anything to fix at all. The warm silence continued. After tissue after tissue got tossed away, I came to a realization: I discovered I didn’t really know what true support was. I wanted it of course, but didn’t have the knowledge that can only come from repeated experience. This not knowing was profoundly opening; it brought me to see how much support I was getting in that moment. Funny how not knowing and seeing go hand in hand.

Going through my own pain and the openings this created helped bring me to a more neutral space about the online incidents. I’ve backed away considerably with those groups, because it’s clear that their version of support and community is quite restrictive to me; it’s based on protection instead of vulnerability. But this is perfect; they simply want different things. I’ll continue to meet these same people face to face (except the person who did the stalking), but won’t expect any support from them. Paradoxically, this whole experience helped me find far more support for myself; the experience of spacious allowing and acceptance has followed me since. The image I’ve had of support has changed from one of a building’s unshakeable foundation to something like an open space to play in, based in the present moment.

All of this has been intrinsic to my exploration of universal Love; it’s brought more of a visceral understanding, and definitely brought strides in living it with myself and others. My friend
Sophie got a whiff of that Friday!


(oh yes, and btw, it was my birthday Saturday! It was wonderful! Here’s a picture of me to celebrate. No, this wasn’t taken on my birthday – rather a few weeks ago – and I love it! The background is one of
Sophie‘s paintings, in my home.)